By Travis M. Smith | KBEC Sports
It’s no secret that the Midlothian and Red Oak volleyball teams like to compete, especially when pitted against one another.
And, even though the Lady Hawks have already wrapped up their second-consecutive District 14-5A championship, there is still one vastly more important competition to go.
One of these two teams has to win the first-ever Peanut Butter and Jelly Challenge. For those keeping tabs at home, (23-16, 9-2) Midlothian is currently “in the lead,” though there is no real winner or loser in this competition; unless, of course, you do not participate.
The Lady Panthers, their booster club and supporter did, however, acquire the most peanut butter ahead of the first district match between the two teams on Oct. 4. Red Oak ultimately won the on-court match in five sets — 25-19, 19-25, 20-25, 25-23, 15-12 — behind 21 kills by senior Hailey Hunt. Katelyn Malone supplied 13 kills, while Carley Rushing had 24 assists.
The Lady Hawks are currently 31-10 on the season and 11-0 in 15-4A action with one regular-season game to go — a Tuesday home match at 6:30 p.m. against Midlothian.
As for round one of the PB&J Challenge, it was all Lady Panthers.
It was also their booster club, spearheaded by Andrea Walton, that came up with the communal effort to help curb childhood hunger in the area, according to both head coaches.
Red Oak head volleyball coach Hope Porter noted she was a bit surprised by the initial call from Walton about the endeavor.
“[Andrea] said ‘Hey, we would like to do this for childhood hunger and it would be a great service project and a little bit of fun,'” Porter recalled. “I thought about it for a few days and thought, ‘You know, she’s right.’ This is a good service project and it is good to teach our kids to care about others.”
Midlothian head volleyball coach Shain Sackett echoed Porter’s sentiments, while also noting that the challenge “would kind of be fun but would also have a big purpose behind it to make sure that we gave back to our community.”
Sackett added, “You have to get the kids to see outside of the box and understand that, while they may be fortunate, that there are people who are less fortunate. You have to be able to empathize with people who may be down on their luck, you know, maybe someone lost their job or there has been a death in the family.”
He also noted that the Lady Panthers, such as junior Karsyn Curry, quickly jumped behind and in support of the endeavor. Sackett said the girls enjoyed the extra competition but also knew that there was a greater good being served.
“I think it is important to use our platform [as student-athletes] because it is part of the game that makes you better,” Curry said. “It helps your program and helps your community to support you. I think it is just good to give back and know what the causes are and what to focus on other than yourself.”
Red Oak senior Katelyn Malone also stated that it is important for high school athletes to lead by example.
“Younger kids look up to us,” Malone said, “so to be able to give back to the community and set an example for the younger kids and to show them what is right and wrong or how they can help out the community too and be a better person is great.”
Malone added, “[…] It was something other than volleyball but still brought us together and was still volleyball related and for a good cause.”
The Lady Hawks will host the Lady Panthers to wrap up District 14-5A play at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in Red Oak.
And, despite no playoff implications being on the line, there is still a first-ever PB&J Challenge title up for grabs.
If you’d like to donate to the cause and help defeat childhood hunger, the visiting team (Midlothian) will need loads of jelly dropped off to the MHS front office before midday Tuesday. Red Oak fans will need to either drop off peanut butter to the ROHS front office before the end of day Tuesday or bring the jar (or jars) to the game on Tuesday evening.
All proceeds and collected goods benefit Manna House.
All photos by Fred Phipps/KBEC Sports and taken during the Oct. 4 match.
Fred Phipps/KBEC Sports contributed to this report
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith